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Celebrating Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Community

Be Your Own Health Advocate

Take these five steps to advocate for yourself…

We’ve all heard that health is wealth, and yet too many of us approach our health and well-being halfheartedly. Sure, you may go to the gym regularly, but have you put in as much effort when it comes to your last doctor’s visit, for example? Learn to be a better health advocate for yourself and you’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your care as well as having a deeper understanding of your health. These five steps will help you step up for yourself when it comes to your most important resource.

1. Prepare for your doctor appointments
Doctors are on a busy schedule and you’ll only have a limited amount of time with them for an appointment. To make the most of that time, take time beforehand to jot down any questions you have, or if you have experienced any worrisome symptoms since your last visit. With a full picture of your health, the doctor can better treat you. And don’t be afraid to actually ask those questions. If you’re unclear about something they’re prescribing, speak up and ask right then and there while you have their attention.

2. Keep organized records of your health care
Although you probably have your COVID-19 vaccine certificate readily available (at least I hope you do!), do you know where your record is from your tetanus shot or HPV vaccine? Storing these documents in a designated file will help you maintain a detailed record of your health history.

3. Do the research, and learn
Look to reputable websites (with the emphasis on reputable) for valuable health information about health conditions and treatment options. The more well versed you are, the better you can speak up for yourself when it comes to your health care and treatment. That said, don’t diagnose yourself or decide on a course of treatment based on what you’ve read on the internet. Take everything you learn and use that information to guide your discussion with your doctor.

4. Get a second opinion
If you’ve gotten a diagnosis (say, your doctor insists that lump is nothing to worry about) but you’re feeling unheard and your intuition tells you the diagnosis is wrong, get a second opinion. Following your gut could save your life, so book that appointment. If the worst that comes out of it is that you offend your doctor, so be it (although any good doctor would not get offended if a patient opted to get a second opinion).

5. Understand your health insurance plan
Knowing the details on how your health insurance works will enable you to use it to your full advantage. If you know one dental appointment is covered every year, for example, that might be the encouragement you need to book your annual dental checkup. Plus, you may discover you have extended benefits you were unaware of that could be helpful, such as the services of a nutritionist when you’ve been looking to change up your diet.

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.

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